Money set for other projects to be used in Trinity River levees projects

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on March 31, 2011 at 7:37 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 31 at 7:49 PM

DALLAS - Two years after the Trinity River levees in Dallas flunked inspection, the Army Corps of Engineers says a repair plan is likely to meet their approval.

The city plans to spend between $50 to $100 million in an effort to complete the project by the end of the year.

But, bond money from other projects will fund much of the work, adding to a river of debt.

The levees protect about $7 billion in property from flooding. The city's plan appears to look as though repairs could be done by the end of the year.

"It can't be guaranteed until the reviews are complete," said Col. Richard Muraski, U.S. Corps of Engineers. "However, we are very encouraged by the preliminary data and information that we have received to date from the city."

City officials said they believe the cost will likely range from $50 to $100 million, which is down from the first estimate of $150 million.

While many repairs have been made, major work remains, including sealing around huge pipes that run through the levees at the Central Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Confronted a year ago with the unexpected cost, city officials said it would mostly spend 2006 bond money set for other flood and drainage projects. For example, using $17 million to replace the aging Able Pump Station that forces runoff into the river might have to wait until a future bond program.

"It's going to cost us less," said Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm. "We're getting very good prices on construction, so maybe we'll be really lucky and we won't have to do too much of that."

What the city hasn't much backed off of during the recession is 2006 bond projects and taking on more debt. A city analysis in December showed a third of the city's property tax revenue now pays for debt service, which is among the highest in large Texas cities.

"We are not going to over incur debt," Suhm said. "We are going to be cautious about that, we always have been."

While the river levees are fixed with bond money, Suhm claimed the city budget won't flow too red with debt.

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